Welcome to the final installment of my Marathon weekend series of blog posts. I’m going to apologize in advance because this is going to be a very long post! If you would like to get caught up on previous days you can follow the links below:
Day 1- January 8, 2014
Day 2- January 9, 2014
Day 3- January 10, 2014
Day 4- January 11, 2014
This journey started back on June 13, 2013 when I took the plunge and signed up for my first Marathon. At the time I’d only run one half marathon and although I had four more planned for the fall, I was really nervous about signing up for a full already. Could I do it? Would it be a waste of money? I had a lot going through my mind.
If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook you probably know I was battling really bad ITB problems and had to train through them. The longest distance I was able to complete during my training was 20 miles and most of that I had to walk. I’d been working with a physical therapist and, although it was helping, I still didn’t know if I would be ready in time.
Fast forward to marathon morning and I was freaking out just a bit. It’s funny how the mind can always make things much worse than they truly end up. If you’d have been inside my head that morning you would have read me my last rights because I was surely going to die out on that race course.
In order to try and alleviate some of the stress I had laid out “flat Kyle” the night before so after a few last minute Facebook posts to try and get myself pumped up, I put on my race gear and headed to the All Star food court to get some breakfast.
The hotel actually had a special runners breakfast that included a bagel, peanut butter, granola bar, banana (1st of many that day), and a bottle of water. I was just happy that they were open that early. I didn’t really expect there to be a special breakfast so that got my morning off to a good start.
I hit the bus stop and took a very uneventful ride over to the pre-race bag check area. I say the bus ride was uneventful because I honestly don’t remember anything about it. I must have been freaking out because I honestly don’t remember even getting on the bus. I just somehow magically appeared at the meeting area.
Just like the previous morning it was great to see my teammates except this time I was finally going to get my turn to run. As soon as I saw my “posse” I knew everything was going to be OK and I started to relax. I floated from group to group, had a great time talking about the upcoming race, and what everyone was planning for a post-race celebration. It was also at this time that Chris and I decided to run, at least the first part of the race, together. He was on his fourth race of the Dopey Challenge and wanted to take it easy at the beginning. Since I had no idea if my knee/ITB was going to hold out I planned on taking it easy most of the race. We decided to run together until Danusia, who was in a later corral, caught up with us. At that time I would see how my knee was feeling and decide if I could keep going with them.
Eventually it was time to start heading over to the corrals. I said goodbye to the cheer team and got on last bit of motivation from Lou.
We made our way over to the corral and began the long wait until the race started. The race was scheduled to start at 5:30 but since we were in Corral L our start time wasn’t until 6:15. I was supposed to be starting in Corral J but since I knew I would be walking a lot I moved back a couple of corrals to be with Chris and another running friend Louis.
We were talking so much that time seemed to fly by. Before I knew it we were off and heading towards mile one.
Usually during the Half Marathons most everyone starts out running quite a bit before they get into their intervals and take walk breaks. Because of this I was staying to the side as I started the walk breaks early. I was really surprised that so many people followed my lead and were taking it easy as well. I think the combination of this being a marathon, and the fact that many people were on the fourth race of the weekend, made people cautious.
After the first couple of miles I knew this race was going to be different. Chris and I were talking almost the entire time which was something I don’t normally do. I run with my wife occasionally but she is a very quiet person when she runs so we don’t talk much. During this race we were talking up a storm. I loved it because the miles just flew by.
The race started out in front of Epcot and made its way towards the Magic Kingdom. I would have normally been surprised to see the first water stop at mile 1 but I’d written down all of the water stops and theme park entrances on the pacing wrist band I had on my arm.
The first distraction we ran by was the pirate ship out on World Drive Between miles two and three. I tried to take a picture but it didn’t turn out very good so I’ll spare you the nasty photo.
Between miles three and four we hit the MK parking lot. There wasn’t anything special about this area but it did take us to the Transportation and Ticket Center where we found the next water station as well as the first aid station. I also had the aid stations noted on my wrist band in case I needed one.
The spectators cheering in the parking lot leading into the Magic Kingdom were awesome! They were lined up on both sides of “Cone Alley” and were cheering like crazy. It’s such a boost to run through that type of atmosphere.
By the time we hit mile five we were heading into the Magic Kingdom. The course takes you in to the park via a side entrance next to Tony’s Town Square Restaurant and funnels you around the corner down Main Street U.S.A. Running into this corner was incredible because, just like the day before, my running team was there cheering on the runners. This time I was the one getting cheered for and it was awesome! I definitely prefer running but I’m so thankful they were there to support me.
The run down Main Street was really crowded so there wasn’t much running actually happening. It was more of a fast walk at this point due to the crowd.
From here we took a right into Tomorrow land…
under the TTA People Mover which is my favorite ride in the park…
and through the back side of Fantasyland towards the castle.
Up next was the run though the Castle itself. I always love this part of the race because you can really see the excitement on the faces of everyone. It’s like nobody can actually believe it’s legal to do this. The smiles all around you are infectious and you can’t help but put a big ol’ grin on yourself!
After running through the castle you make a right turn into Frontier land and head towards mile marker six. I remember the smell at this point of the race. Some of the restaurants must have been preparing breakfast because the entire place smelled like Mickey Waffles. This, of course, made me hungry so I decided to take a Gu shot right about here.
At this point you start heading out of the Magic Kingdom by using a utility exit next to Splash Mountain. It was really cool to see some of the back stage areas during the race. I know it tends to get old for some people who have run the race many times but I really enjoyed this part. I was sad to be leaving the Magic Kingdom but my legs, feet, and ITB were doing great so I was really happy.
It was a couple more miles before we ran into the Wald Disney World Speedway. This is also right around the time that Danusia caught up with us.
I know some people have an issue with the entrance ramp into the track being steep but for some reason it didn’t really bother me. We were talking so much going into the speedway that I don’t remember much about the tunnel leading into the track. I do remember some of the cool cars that lined the speedway while we ran on the “apron” of the track.
The sun was shining brightly by this time but the temps were still perfect. We noticed that some of the spectators were wearing warmer clothes but we were very comfortable.
Not much to see here other than the nasty water treatment plant. Not a great scent to smell while trying to run a marathon. I do believe that this is where they were playing Sweet Caroline by Neil Diamond. What a great song to get you pumped up around mile ten!
On a related note, I always think of my running friends in Boston when I hear this song. I can’t wait for the Boston Marathon to come back strong in 2014!!!
We continued to pass the time by talking to each other. I can’t stress enough how much this helped. It seemed like we were all doing well physically and mentally and talking so much just made the time fly by. If I didn’t know better I would have sworn we were only at mile six or seven because I was really feeling good at this point.
Just before mile twelve we hit our next water and first aid station. This is also the first food stop that runDisney offered. There were bananas a plenty and since my stomach was growling, I gladly ate one when handed to me.
Just after mile marker 12 we entered the Animal Kingdom. The park had opened at this point so the area where we were running had been blocked off by traffic cones. There was a ton of crowd support but you could also tell that some people were really annoyed because they had to wait for us to cross into other areas of the park.
Since we were almost half way through the race we decided to stop for a bathroom break while we had a real bathroom available. It also happened to be very close to Expedition Everest. If you know anything about this race you might know that they allow runners to get a fast pass for a quick ride on the mountain. This would have been really cool to do but I was honestly focused on finishing this race. Because I had my Garmin on, I knew we were at least 45 minutes ahead of the sweepers at this point but I still had half of the race to go and didn’t want to risk it.
I did take a little time to get a picture at Chester & Hester’s Dino-Rama but that was really my only photo stop of the day. Maybe next year when I’m a little more confident I’ll stop for a few more pics.
The exit through the parking lot of AK was very narrow. I was so shocked because you could really only go about two wide at this point. Needless to say there was a pretty good traffic jam so running at a good clip was next to impossible.
Nothing to see here…please move along.
Not really but almost. This part of the race was my least favorite. I started to feel a little twinge in my knee and I honestly freaked out a little. I fired up the conversation again at this point so we discussed our favorite aspects of the parks and resorts. Topics included favorite meals in each park, favorite rides in each park, best resorts on property, etc. This really helped and after a while I wasn’t even thinking about my knee. It also stopped hurting at this point and never bothered me the rest of the race!
Race organizers had a few characters stops during this part of the race but since we weren’t stopping for anything it didn’t really matter to me. We did pass the grave diggers from the haunted mansion and I almost wanted to stop but I was on a mission!
Welcome to Wide World of Sports!!!
I’ve read a few trip reports about this race and it seems like this is, in general, not a very well-liked area of the race course. I must be strange because I really enjoyed it. The sun was shining and I was getting closer to my goal. I am also a huge baseball fan so running the through ball fields and running track really put a big smile on my face.
This is also where I started to notice that my little trio was not as chatty as we had been. The long week of running and the length of the marathon were starting to catch up to us. Danusia was starting to stiffen up and the only way to keep it from getting worse was to keep running. This is when Chris and I told her to go on ahead without us. It was kind of a bummer to break up our little group but I understood completely. I was getting tired but overall I was still feeling pretty good. I stayed with Chris and we both powered through the mile 18 mark and down to banana stop #3 as well as Champions stadium.
It was awesome to run on the warning track in the stadium where the Braves spring training takes place. I’m not a Braves fan (Go Tigers) but Chris and Danielle are and I love spring baseball so it was an awesome experience.
After exiting the stadium and cleaning the rocks out of our shoes it was time to power on through that daunting 20 mile mark. I’d never run further than 20 miles before so from here on out it was a new experience for me. As we passed the twenty mile mark I looked over at Chris and told him that we just blew through the dreaded “wall” and had nothing else to worry about. I was really psyched at this point because we only had 10K to go, we were still way ahead of the pacers, and I felt confident that we were going to make it to the end.
The road leading into Disney’s Hollywood Studios was really cool. They had placed motivational signs on the side of the road just when we might have needed them. This one was my favorite.
We came in to Hollywood Studios right near the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror. This is the same entrance that is used for the Wine & Dine Half so I knew where we were going. Unfortunately this also is the part of the race where I forgot to take pictures. I was focused on getting my rapidly tiring feet moving and making sure that Chris was still with me. We were both starting to fade a bit at this point and picture taking was not on the agenda.
I do remember that there were a lot of people in the park that afternoon and so many of them were cheering for us. It seemed like I was hearing my name called out every five feet. I was so thankful to them for taking the time out of their expensive park day to say a few encouraging words. It just goes to show you that there are still many good people in this world!
Miles 25 – 26.2
After exiting Hollywood studios it was time to hit the boardwalk. Many runners were hurting at this point and a lot of grumpiness and complaining was going on all around me. I, on the other hand, was actually starting to get my second wind. My feet weren’t hurting as bad and my energy levels started to pick up. We ran behind the boardwalk resort and out towards the Yacht and Beach Club resorts. The crowd support here was really great as well. This is where I saw members of Team All Ears cheering. It was great to see Deb Wills out there cheering with my fiend Kim and the rest of the team. It gave me a boost to make it into Epcot.
We entered Epcot via an area at the back of the UK pavilion. As soon as we turned the corner into the UK our running team was there to greet us. It was so incredible seeing them there that I was almost speechless. It’s a perfect place for them to be because it really helped to end the race on a high note. As you can see from the picture below I was really happy to see my peeps!
After giving Lou another money making sweaty man hug in the UK, it was time to head over through the rest of World Showcase. I was getting hungry again at this point and the smell of food was very strong in the air. I was listening to a podcast the other day where a woman stopped at the American Adventure Pavilion and grabbed a turkey leg so she could finish the race with turkey leg in hand. I can’t say that I would have chosen a that particular food item but I was definitely hungry for something.
As we were running through Morocco I heard my name again. This time I looked over and saw another friend Lori sitting in the new Spice Road Table restaurant. It was another boost to get me through those last couple miles.
I fought off my hunger and made my way past Germany, Norway, and Mexico where I saw this beautiful sight:
Spaceship Earth meant that the end was near. I knew that just around the corner were the choir and then the finish line. I powered on past another group of awesome cheering spectators…
and made my way to Mile 26 and the world best gospel choir (at least they were that day!)
Chris and I were exhausted and sore but at this point we knew it was over.
I was starting to get really choked up at this point because all the time, training, sacrifice, and pain that I had endured since I made that decision on June 3rd were all about to pay off as soon as I cross that finish line!
As I ran to the finish I couldn’t help but think of my family and all the support they have given me since I began running a year and a half ago. My wife, kids, mom, brother, aunts, uncles, and cousins all ran through my head.
When I crossed the finish line of my first marathon, however I was only thinking about my dad. Before he passed away in December 2012 I promised him that someday I would finish a marathon and dedicate it to him. I ran through the finish line and looked up to the sky… “I did it Pop!”
He would have been so proud!